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Draft Profile: Devin White could be a versatile midfield defender for the Lions

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The Lions could look to improve their defense from the inside out by taking versatile linebacker Devin White.

Alabama v LSU Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

If the Detroit Lions choose to turn to the draft to fix their issues at linebacker, one of the top names they’re going to look into is Devin White out of Louisiana State. White is one of the most commonly mentioned players for LB1 in this draft class and a guy I fully expect to go Day 1 or early Day 2 as he’s currently projected. With the type of defense the Lions run, they’re going to need someone who can do more than just control his gaps, and White provides the versatility the team may be looking for to pair with Jarrad Davis in the middle of the defense.

Devin White, LSU

Height: 6010 (6 feet, 1 inch) | Weight: 240

2016 Stats: 8 Games | 15 Solo Tackles | 30 Total | 3.0 TFL | 1.0 Sack | 1 FR | 1 FF

2017 Stats: 13 Games | 37 Solo Tackles | 133 Total | 13.5 TFL | 4.5 Sacks | 1 Int | 3 PD

2018 Stats: 12 Games | 54 Solo Tackles | 115 Total | 12.0 TFL | 3.0 Sacks | 5 PD | 2 FR | 2 FF

Current Draft Projection: First Round

Background

Some notes from his team profile here:

2017 Team MVP 2017 All-SEC First Team (Coaches, AP), 2017 Second team All-America (FWAA, USA Today), 2017 SEC Defensive Player of the Week (at Florida, vs. Auburn, vs. Arkansas, vs. Texas A&M), 2017 Chuck Bednarik National Player of the Week (vs. Auburn), 2016 SEC All-Freshman Team (Coaches)

HONORS AND AWARDS Butkus Award Watch List (2018), Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List (2018), Bednarik Award Watch List (2018), USA Today All-Bowl Team (2017), Notre Dame Impact Player Award (2017), Bednarik Defensive Player of the Week (Oct. 21, 2018 vs. USC)

A four-star running back coming out of Louisiana, I don’t think many would predict that Devin White would have the impact that he ultimately had. With the stacked backfield the Tigers had, White took to the defensive side of the ball, where he was good but not as heralded of a recruit and broke out in his second year of action for LSU.

Strengths

White’s speed and explosiveness stand out on almost any tape you could put on. He doesn’t have the kind of elite speed that would make me say he’s the fastest guy in this class, as I have plenty of guys left to watch and I’m sure I’m going to see one of those crazy, stupid speedsters, but White does have top-tier speed for a linebacker. His ability to explode from a full stop, or to see a gap and blast through it at nearly top speed is impressive and stands out almost every game, a credit to coaches putting him in position to succeed. His tackling is top notch as well, and while not perfect, it isn’t often a runner is able to get away once he gets his hands on them.

Weaknesses

Like Lions 2017 first-round pick Jarrad Davis, White’s speed can sometimes get the best of him. He’ll time the snap, shoot through his gap like a rocket, and go right by the ball carrier. His angles to the ball carriers are generally sound, but when he makes a mistake it really stands out because his speed takes him so far out of the play. LSU didn’t ask White to cover as much as you’d like to see, and he’s middling at a college level in both man and zone coverage.

Position Specific Traits

Gap Control

LSU asks their linebackers to play multiple gaps and White has stood out in that regard positively. While Mack Wilson of Alabama is usually asked to play off the line and close gaps in a reactionary style and Devin Bush of Michigan is basically given a gap and told to close it as an attacker, White falls somewhere in-between the two. The area of concern with White isn’t with his assignments and whether he can figure out where he’s supposed to be and what to do, it’s if he can get off blocks when he needs to. There are times he does so and it looks natural and clean and other games where he’s eaten the moment he’s touched by a blocker. I’d love to see more consistency in that area.

Tackling

White doesn’t miss many tackles. His technique is generally sound and he uses his length well to wrap up. He can get sloppy on occasion, he’s not as technically sound as someone like Te’Von Coney, but it’s not common. His strength as a tackler can be impressive, if inconsistent. Sometimes he’ll bring down runners one handed and can, at the very least, slow a rusher down if he gets any part of his hand on their jersey.

Man Coverage

With the kind of athleticism I’ve seen, I have little concerns that White could learn to be a much better cover guy in man. He’s not there yet, though, and he’ll sometimes take poor angles to track the man he’s covering. This can put him behind where he needs to be in coverage, and while he doesn’t allow a ton of passes to his coverage, he usually ends up out of position to take them down if they catch it. Some technical issues that are coachable, not a crippling concern.

Zone Coverage

Most linebackers in college tend to play coverage too shallow, staying too far underneath so they can bail and chase the QB if they scramble. White has a tendency to play a bit too far off when he’s in zone and too far inside. He does a decent job handing off receivers in his coverage and seems to be tracking who he’s supposed to cover well, just occasionally puts himself out of position.

Athletic Ability

I have very little concern with Devin White’s athletic profile. He has prototypical ILB size, but top-tier explosiveness and speed. I would guess he runs in the low 4.6, high 4.5 range at the NFL Combine. Due to how often White is asked to rush the passer and navigate through traffic at the line of scrimmage, I had a pretty good look at his agility and that, too, looks to be very good. I’d be surprised to see White measure anything other than elite athletically.

Personal Projection

I tend to agree with where White is projected to go in this instance. I’d hesitate to take him in the middle of the first round due to concerns with how much of a learning curve you can expect while developing him, but I have seen worse players go in that range simply because teams look for those types of guys to control the middle of their field. The Lions are likely going to be drafting too high to consider Devin White, but he’s a name to know if the Lions find a trade partner to land somewhere in the 20s.